10 Last of all I want to remind you that your strength must come from the Lord’s mighty power within you. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand safe against all strategies and tricks of Satan. 12 For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against persons without bodies—the evil rulers of the unseen world, those mighty satanic beings and great evil princes of darkness who rule this world; and against huge numbers of wicked spirits in the spirit world.
13 So use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy whenever he attacks, and when it is all over, you will still be standing up.
Ephesians 6: 10-13 (TLB)
Snow fell unseasonably early last week. You kissed me and we watched it quietly fall while you held my hand in your own.
It’s all a little bit like Snow White tonight: the white snow. Crimson blood. A warm hearth on a cold night. Pies.
I giggled in spite of myself and the grumpiness inside of me eased a little bit. You had a point: several elements of that story were present in the tale that we watched unfold in our kitchen that night, but in our version I was far more like the Evil Queen than Snow White herself.
My attitude was atrocious: everything seemed to be working against me from the moment I picked the girls up from school. Mia was pale and floppy and I panicked a little when I looked into her glassy eyes that lent credibility to my suspicions. I panicked about having a sick child at home the next day when I was committed to running Addie’s classroom Halloween party and I let my imagination run away with me, suddenly believing Addie’s teacher would think the worst about me if I had to stay home with my sick child. Then there was Addie who would be brokenhearted if I failed to keep my promise that I would be in her classroom this year, and not Mia’s.
All this happened in the blink of an eye and by the time I hugged Addie hello I was already believing I would inevitably be known for nothing but failure within the next 24 hours. Addie greeted me with very real tears and a hug, clinging to me for comfort as she told her sad tale of basketball gone wrong and slid her hand into mine, favoring the painful, swollen finger, asking if I thought she would still be able to go to swim practice even though she was hurt. I nodded and somehow managed to get her there on time.
Mia laid on my lap while Emery ran laps in the observation area of Addie’s lesson, growling in anger every time he passed me. Mia couldn’t get comfortable, and my attention was divided three ways. We were all cold and tired, hungry and spent. By the time we got home, tears were flowing and patience ran thin. You were home before us, which helped dissipate some of the tension, but your excitement over the promise of the snow that would come soon reminded me how irritated I was by it. What seemed so beautiful last year seemed poisoned, somehow. It wasn’t even Halloween yet and the prospect of trick or treating in the snow made me want to cry.
To make matters worse, the kitchen was a mess and starting dinner in the middle of it was a recipe for disaster. I must have been a lunatic to entertain the idea of making Chicken Pot Pie in such conditions. I thought very seriously about nixing my plan and scrambling some eggs instead. After all: eggs are an easy sell for Emery, Addie eats just about anything without complaint, and Mia did not want to eat anything at all, not even the Chicken Pot Pie she has been asking me to make for weeks. But the moment I thought about Mia, I heard her little voice inside my mind saying Don’t make a pie crust promise. They’re easy to make and easy to break). Mia may not have wanted to eat the chicken pot pie, but she would definitely sniff out a broken promise if I didn’t follow through and make one.
So I listened to that voice and duped myself into believing I was acting heroically by marching toward dinner, but I grumbled as I tried to make good on my promise and scolded myself for not being able to do it all better. Things went from bad to worse. A large glass measuring cup slipped out of my hands shattered. It cut me, and everything stopped. I stood at the sink watching the snow start to accumulate while I clutched my hand and called out to you for help. While I waited, it was quiet. The light from inside the kitchen bounced off the glass, and all I could really see was my own reflection.
You came quickly and assessed the damage, then swept up the broken pieces while I stood looking out the window, trying to see beyond the circumstances. My hand was bleeding, and it stung. The clock kept moving, the minute hand moving the moon higher into the sky and amplifying the din of grumbling children who had mixed feelings about the dinner that kept telling me it did not want to get made.
When the broken glass was cleaned up and the kitchen was safe again, you tended to my wound. It was small, and I was lucky. With a band aid and a kiss, you stood with me by the sink watching flakes of snow quietly fall. That is when you told me the evening reminded you of Snow White.
But I felt nothing like the kindhearted princess who maintained a peaceful disposition despite a bad situation. A very real attack was looming ahead, but she whistled while she went about her business making pies for hungry dwarfs. I was like the evil queen who was driven to madness by the absence of what she expected to see in front of her. The illusion of perfection quarreled with the reality of imperfection for me just as it did for her, and it frustrated my heart. I felt weak.
Instead of admitting I had no strength left, I kept on going. An injured hand made rolling the pie dough out nearly impossible. I tried, and the pie crust broke. I stomped through the kitchen, grumbling and angry, blaming my hurt hand for the problem, angry that the glass sliced me and wondering how the measuring cup slipped out of my hand in the first place.
You rescued me again. You laughed with me about a broken pie crust as we laid pieces of it on top of the pie. I tried in vain to make it look pretty while you tucked it in tight along the edges, snug and secure, and it baked up golden and delicious despite its imperfection.
After all that, we stowed most of it in the fridge anyway. Emery balked at the idea of Chicken Pot Pie, arguing that pie is dessert and chicken is not dessert. (He ate tuna and crackers.) Mia tried to nibble on some toast but ended up going to bed early. Addie enjoyed every bite of her own personal size pie, and I think we ate a scoop of some too before we finally bid adieu to that hard day.
Things were brighter in the morning. The sun peeked its head out, hesitant at first, making sure the blanket of too-early snow had really disappeared before it dared leave the cover of safety. Before long, it stretched its arms wide and called us out to play. Halloween was lovely: Mia woke up rested and feeling much better; Addie’s finger wasn’t broken after all, and I followed through on the commitment of running her classroom party. After school, we took the Goobies trick or treating with their cousins, sorted through gobs of candy and finally fell into bed exhausted, but thankful. Soon the weekend came, and we gloried in a chance to rest.
We moved slowly in the best possible way, and we were miraculously cooperative and present, all of us engaged in and excited about going on an adventure together. The day was crisp and cool, leaves crunching under our feet and breeze whistling as it joined us for a walk, and we ended up seeing real armor, the kind knights used to wear in battle.
As we talked with the Goobies about what the armor does and how long it took to do the arduous work of putting it on in the first place, I remembered that getting ready for battle was not a spur of the moment choice: it was calculated to perfection, each piece of armor fits together just so, rendering an otherwise vulnerable soldier virtually impenetrable. Anticipating attack was the only real defense against them.
Even so, there are a few weak spots in the armor. It would take some crafty maneuvering for weaponry to find the weak spots, of course, but surely it happened in battle sometimes. As I thought about this, I couldn’t help but reflect on the idea of spiritual armor and the way that Paul implored Christ followers to rely on the strength of the Lord in anticipation of spiritual battles, because those things are sneaky and they attack in the nearly hidden places in us that remain weak and vulnerable. That night in the kitchen last week when everything seemed out of control: it didn’t feel spiritual at the time, but looking back on it I realize it totally was, and pride was my weak spot. It pranced around like a virtue, telling me to sacrifice what everyone else really needed in order to keep up my reputation. My preoccupation with perfection kept me from seeing this, of course, and I went about the evening thinking my actions were admirable and good, even while things spiraled out of control. Thank goodness you were there to rescue me from my prideful self.
Predictably, the Goobies eventually lost interest in the display of armor and got hungry, so we headed to the cafe for a snack. I watched you as you sipped your coffee: equally calm and collected there as you had been sweeping up broken glass and wiping my tears before wrangling a wound up preschooler into bed and splinting a sprained finger. You were suited up and ready before you knew what situations would greet you that day. Your secret is this: you let strength of the Lord to permeate your heart and cover your soul. You humbly focus on the things that really matter instead of giving credence to things that work hard to tempt you away from truth. Your defense gives you peace of mind and freedom of heart to engage in life without worry.
Watching the Goobies happily sipping on plain old water in that beautiful cafe alongside you made me realize just how misguided my motives were the other night. I thought I was valiantly fighting the good fight, but the truth is I was doing it in my own strength, which is why I failed. A heart at rest in the strength of the Lord would have realized that particular battle was not worth fighting. The Goobies would have been perfectly content with scrambled eggs if it meant my heart was present with them. My hand might have avoided getting hurt, and I might even still have my measuring cup. The promise I made to Mia broke apart anyway when the pie crust fell to pieces. Had I been suited up and ready to quell the small attacks, they would not have coalesced into the big one that got the better of me that day.
After our day out at the museum, we headed home and laid out the leftover Chicken Pot Pies for dinner and it felt like a second chance to get things right. The Goobies scrambled for a seat at the table, joy clearly bubbling up within them over the excitement of the day. Emery folded his hands and prayed before we ate, saying Thank you God that we get to do fun stuff with our whole family and that we can eat good food that we like. As always, you glanced at me and smiled after he prayed, and my heart flooded with thankfulness that those Goobies have you as an example of what real strength is: a man who lets the power of God flow through him so he can rise up to meet the challenges of the day with strength and love.
It is Christ in you that is the real hero of this tale.
Chicken Pot Pie (GF/DF/NF)
Chicken Pot Pie is one of those classic comfort foods I thought I would never be able to make for my food allergy family. The idea of making a gluten free version is one thing, but the thought of a dairy free version kept me from trying for far too long. I used Jenny Rosenstrach’s version of Chicken Pot Pie with Sweet Potatoes from her delightful book Dinner: A Love Story as my inspiration, adapting it and adjusting it to meet our allergy requirements. The result? A dish is so delicious that you should go ahead and make it as written even if your family doesn’t have any food allergies at all! This recipe is enough to fill a deep 10″ pie plate plus three 4 inch mini pie plates. If gluten isn’t a problem for you, just use your favorite pie crust recipe instead of this gluten free version below (which is adapted from this recipe).
For the filling
- 3-4 cups cooked chicken (shredded or cubed)
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 2 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
- 2/3 cup frozen peas
- 1/4 cup full fat mayonnaise (such as Trader Joe’s)
- 2 T potato starch (or cornstarch) + 1/4 cup cold water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dry thyme
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
For the crust:
- 2 1/4 cups Namaste Gluten Free Flour Mix (or mine)
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 cold Earth Balance vegan buttery spread cut into small pieces
- 1 large egg
- 1/3 cup cold water (or more, if the dough is a little dry)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 egg, lightly whisked to coat the crust before baking
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Spray a 10 inch deep dish pie plate with non-stick cooking spray.
Prepare the crust: whisk together the dry ingredients, then using your hands or a pastry cutter, mix the cold buttery spread into the flour until it resembles sand. Whisk together the egg, cold water and the apple cider vinegar; pour it into the dry ingredients and mix until the dough begins to come together. Turn the dough out onto a clean, floured surface and roll it out to about 1/8″ thick.
Move on to the filling: pour the chicken broth into a saucepan. Bring the broth to a boil, then add the diced potatoes, carrots and onions. Let them simmer until softened, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together the potato starch and water. When the veggies are soft, pour the slurry into the hot broth and whisk well. Then, add the mayonnaise, vinegar, thyme, salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Finally, stir in the chicken and the peas.
Pour the filling into the greased pie plate. Then, gently lay the crust on top. Pinch along the sides as you would a fruit pie, then cut to vent. Brush with the lightly whisked egg and bake 30 minutes or until golden.